Russian Harlequin Hound

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Russian Harlequin Hound

The Russian Harlequin Hound is the result of breeding Russian Hounds with English Foxhounds. Considered a rare breed, the Russian Harlequin Hound is best known in his native Russia.

Although a hunting dog through and through, the Russian Harlequin is arguably more sociable than other pack animals. He is gregarious and gets on well with other dogs and people. The two main drawbacks that make him a considered choice as a pet include his high prey drive (meaning no cat is safe in his presence) and the need for lots of exercise.

Oh, and perhaps we should make that three drawbacks, since the Russian Harlequin Hound is also very vocal and loves the sound of his own voice. This makes him unsuited to apartment living, since not only does he need lots of space but his howling will disturb the neighbours.

About & History

The first Russian Harlequin hounds were bred at the beginning of the 20th century, with the official breed standard being set in 1925. The breed is the product of breeding together traditional Russian Hounds and English Foxhounds. It’s also possible that some French hunting hound blood went into the creation of the Harlequin Hound.

Originally, this fledgling breed was called the Anglo-Russian Hound. However, the name was changed in 1951 to the current title of Russian Harlequin Hound. The Russian Hounds forming the foundation stock have origins going back to the 18th century. Going further back than this term Russian Hound has been used to describe a variety of similar dogs that were fitted to the purpose of hunting foxes and wolves in their native Russia.


Russian Harlequin Hound Large Photo

It comes as no surprise that the Russian Harlequin Hound has an appearance that is similar to many other hunting hounds, such as the English or French Foxhound. They are a medium to large dog of sensible proportions that equip them with the length of leg and breadth of chest to indulge in hearty exercise.

They have strong, straight legs and a powerful tail that is carried high and slightly curved. They have a broad intelligent head with a good length of muzzle, all the better for sniffing on the run. The Russian Harlequin has drop ears, set high on the head, which fall so as to frame the face.

Typically this hound is mostly white, with tricoloured patches on the head, back, and tail. The reason for this mainly white colouration is interesting, as it makes it easier for the huntsman to distinguish the dog from the quarry he is tracking.

Character & Temperament

Pack dogs are usually most at home with canine kind and can be stand-offish with people. However, as a pack dog, the Russian Harlequin Hound has the enviable (and unusual) reputation of being friendly and sociable with people. This even extends to children, with whom he is characteristically gentle. In theory, this should make him an ideal family dog, but in reality, this isn’t always the case.

Of course you’d expect a hunting dog to have an energetic streak, and the Russian Harlequin Hound doesn’t disappoint in this department. He’s definitely a lover of the great outdoors and thrives when given a mental challenge and plenty of exercise. This means that despite his loyal and loving nature, he’s not a natural fit for apartment living.

The lack of opportunity to run, sniff, and generally express himself is too restricted in a flat or small house. He’s likely to make his own amusement, most probably by barking and generally making his presence felt with destructive behaviour. So, don’t go there.


The Russian Harlequin Hound makes an ideal companion for an active but experienced dog owner. On the plus side, this breed is intelligent and quick to catch on, but on the minus side, he has an independent streak, which means he may choose not to listen to instruction.

The trainer who focuses the dog’s attention into an activity they enjoy, is the owner who is most likely to live in harmony with a Russian Harlequin Hound. So, if you’re seeking a dog to take part in energy-expanding sports, such as Canicross, tracking, or agility then this could be the hound for you.

In common with all dogs, the Russian Harlequin Hound responds best to reward based training. This uses praise and reward to motivate the dog to learn, rather than the threat of punishment as with outdated dominance-based methods.


As a rare breed there are few formal statistics on the incidence of disease, however, they do seem at risk of certain problems, such as:


In common with other deep-chested dogs, the Russian Harlequin Hound is prone to bloat. This refers to a condition where the stomach flips over on itself, trapping air inside. Fermentation within the stomach causes increasing amounts of gas to distend this organ with life-threatening consequences.

Symptoms of bloat includes a swollen belly and retching, but the dog is unable to vomit anything up. These signs are a red flag and require immediate veterinary attention. Prompt surgical correction of the twisted stomach is the dog’s best chance of making a recovery.

Hip Dysplasia

The condition known as hip dysplasia refers to poor hip anatomy. The misshapen hip joints knock and clunk with each step, which sets up joint inflammation. In the short term, this causes pain and lameness, and in the long term, can cause debilitating premature arthritis.

Anti-inflammatory medications can go some way to controlling discomfort in mild cases. However, surgery, such as a total hip replacement, may be necessary for the worst affected dogs.

Skin Allergies

Skin allergies to common substances in the environment, such as pollens or dust mites, creates intense itching. In its mildest form this is irritating for the dog and annoying for the owner. But severe allergies lead to self-trauma due to itchiness leading to skin infections and ulceration.

Now more than ever before vets have an armoury of drugs that can control itchiness or the causes of allergy. However, these treatments are costly, which is especially sobering for an owner as they may be needed for the remainder of the dog’s life.


When a high-energy dog such as the Russian Harlequin Hound doesn’t get enough exercise, he’s liable to gain weight. The wise owner is aware of this and strives to give the perfect combination of energy-burning exercise and calorie restriction to keep their dog slim and in shape.

Exercise and Activity Levels

If the Russian Harlequin Hound was a person, he’d have an active outdoor job, such as a farmer or fisherman. This dog needs to have a mental challenge and the opportunity to burn off energy. So, be prepared to be outdoors with him for up to two hours vigorous exercise a day.

He also needs space and interesting surroundings to explore in order to satisfy his keen sense of smell and curiosity. A coach potato he is not, so if you can’t keep up the pace don’t get a Russian Harlequin Hound.


The short dense coat of the Russian Harlequin Hound requires little by way of formal coat care. Whilst he doesn’t need regular trips to the grooming parlour, a weekly slick over with a brush is a good idea. This stimulates the blood supply to the skin and spreads the natural oils for optimal coat condition. If he does get dirty, then use a mild moisturising shampoo so that those protective natural oils are not stripped out.

Given that the Russian Harlequin Hound is going to spend a lot of time outside, get into the habit of a daily tick check. Removing ticks before they have been attached for 24 hours greatly reduces the risk of tick transmitted diseases. And, take good care of those pendulous ears. Lift the ear flap and check for infection in the ear canal two or three times a week.

Famous Russian Harlequin Hounds

Check out the elegance of the Russian Harlequin Hound on this Pinterest page.


As a rare breed, the Russian Harlequin Hound is not commonly used for cross-breeding to create new hybrids.

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